Back in the day

04/21/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

My freelance career started in 2007.

The genesis was a class project in college that required us to build an Interactive Resume (personal website), and it went from there. I started building personal websites for other people, and then sites for small businesses. After I quit my job in 2010, I started freelancing full-time.

I wasn’t a particularly skilled designer or developer at the time, but I knew more than my clients (an important prerequisite…) and I was better at connecting with humans than my “competitors.” So my reputation grew, as did my client base.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I tried hard and I didn’t quit. The low cost of living in Atlanta helped, but that’s beside the point.

Looking back, I could have probably increased my income by a factor of five if I actually knew what I was doing. Many of the things that make my projects successful today are a result of the lessons I learned the hard way between 2007 and 2011.

I would not recommend learning how to freelance the hard way if you can help it.

There probably isn’t a human alive who has had a bigger impact on how I think about about business and connection and freelancing than Seth Godin. Seth is not available for consulting or coaching at any price, but the lessons he’s learned over 30 years of successful freelancing can be found in his new course for freelancers on Udemy.

Udemy is running a promotion through the end of April that lets you get the course at a considerable discount when you use the code MOVEUP, which makes this no-brainer even no-brainerer.

Mocha

04/08/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

A friend and I were discussing our preferences in women recently, and we inadvertently happened upon the topic of color(ism). My friend (who is white) explained that he was attracted to black women who were “mocha” in complexion.

Oh this is gonna be good, I thought to myself as I invited him to expound. I knew he was describing light-skinned women, but “mocha” tells me nothing since, well, it depends on how you take your coffee.

“Not like straight out of Africa, but…you know, mocha. Is that bad?”

Not like straight out of Africa. The ease with which these words rolled off his tongue still amazes me as I type these words.

What I explained to my AccidentallyIncrediblyRacist friend is that the problem with what he shared wasn’t his preference—you like what you like—but rather the subtext that there is something wrong with having dark skin.

Was his statement racist? Of course it was. Is he racist? I don’t think so, nor do I think that being quick to assign him this label is useful in any way.

What’s more important is that there are safe places to have important and uncomfortable conversations like this. That’s why I created Abernathy.

And boy oh boy, is he missing out.

Black is beautiful.

Photo of Lupita Nyong'o Lupita Nyong’o

An alternative to keeping someone posted

04/07/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Just decide and propose something.

It’ll either work or it won’t, but you don’t have to default to postponing the only important part of the process.

Minimum Viable Peddling

04/06/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

His body language suggested that he was in the business of interrupting passers by.

This was indeed the case.

The gentleman in question had a bag ten yards behind him, propped against the wall, with a single piece of art perched on top.

In my mind (since I had no interest in Humans of New York-ing this guy (and because making eye contact with people in New York is sadly an invitation to participate in their particular brand of crazy)), he was an artist with one item to sell.

This was indeed the case.

Like clockwork, I watched him engage the unfortunate soul to my right and smiled smugly as the pitch unfolded.

But I also admired the guy. He was an artist. He was in the arena, taking his blows. He was trying.

He didn’t wait until his art was good enough to land him placement in a gallery, or to have enough art to fill up a table. He created one thing and he was pounding the pavement.

I respect that.

Of course, he could have been pulling the old Rice Krispies trick

Worthiness

04/03/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Next time you’re afraid to

  1. ask for more money
  2. share your idea with the world
  3. give your dreams a shot
  4. help someone in need
  5. stand up for what you believe in

…just remember that evil people (some of whom might ostensibly be your “competition”) don’t talk themselves out of what they feel that they deserve.

Shoot for the stars, good people.

We need you.

A painful paradox

04/02/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

This goes against the way that we’re wired as humans, but despite our desire to feign strength and resilience when we’re most weak, people resonate with vulnerability and transparency.

Since putting up a front is a part of our social fabric, being courageously vulnerable and honest is something of a revolutionary act. We don’t need to see a live-stream of you crying, but there’s no need to pretend that you’ve never shed any tears on the way to your dreams.

Life is hard and everyone’s making it all up. That’s a fine starting point for the conversation. What’s next?

One of those days

04/01/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

When you miss your train or spill your coffee in the morning, it’s easy to project this misfortune onto the rest of your day, expecting a storm cloud of destruction to follow you until you crawl back into the sheets twelve hours later.

This is total nonsense of course, and you’re allowed to opt out of that harmful thinking. Maybe instead of feeding the dread and worry, you can rejoice that you’ve gotten the day’s misfortune out of the way.

Can’t hurt to try.

Know thyself

03/31/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Self-awareness pays dividends.

No one can take it from you, and it acts as a baked in force-multiplier for your projects since after a while, you develop an understanding around how certain types of work affects you. You can then make better decisions about how (and whether) to spend your time (on certain projects).

Trouble is, honest self-reflection and self-inquiry require an extraordinary amount of courage.

And therein lies the rub.

Maybe I was wrong

03/30/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

It’s easy to dismiss Generation Z as…doomed. Any time I see news bubbling up about them or foolishly reinstall Vine on my phone, I grow less and less hopeful about the future.

But recently, I’ve been inspired by a generation of brave leaders like the young men I met last week.

Today, I had the pleasure of publishing something on Abernathy from one of the young men I met that day. From his email to me over the weekend:

So in the spirit of taking a leap of faith, I briefly spoke with you after the period ended and told you about my passions in writing. Also I very much mirror your frustrations as it regards to the pejorative portrayal of African American males in media, and I think that it is pertinent to also include different experiences and perspectives of different African American males.

So I have written poems, stories, and college essays about the struggles of being an African American male, being a black gay male, being a black male in poverty, and how these three identities often conflict with each other. So if those are some of the things you might be interested in, I would gladly email them to you. If you can respond back to this email I would greatly appreciate it.

James Fisher, age 17, gives me hope for the future.

My heart is swelling with pride today.

Less terrible, quickly

03/29/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

I’m learning the acoustic guitar, and it’s amazing how much of a difference I can see in my day-over-day progress just by strumming (poorly) a couple times a day.

Today was a bit of a breakthrough in that I felt connected to the instrument and actually expressing rather than just worrying about hand placement and messing up. There was music coming out of the guitar!

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Anyway, time to start practicing my wealth manifestation activities twice a day…